Markkanen Excited To Play Host At First All-Star Game
SALT LAKE CITY – Lauri Markkanen will make his first All-Star appearance Sunday night as the star-studded weekend comes to a close in Utah.
The Jazz forward is the team’s lone representative in front of the home crowd and should get plenty of opportunity to prove he belongs.
After a stellar start to his tenure with the Jazz, Markkanen was chosen by NBA coaches as a reserve for the All-Star game before being bumped up to a starting position due to injuries.
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Markkanen will have the unique opportunity to represent both Utah as the league host, and his country as he becomes the first Finnish player to suit up in an NBA All-Star game.
“Being in the hometown and having my family here and having them experiencing everything with me, I think that’s been pretty cool,” Markkanen said.
Markkanen Never Questioned All-Star Hopes
The Jazz forward is having a career year in Utah, averaging 24.9 points and 8.8 rebounds, proving why he was worthy of a top-seven pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
After two strong seasons to begin his career in Chicago, Markkanen’s numbers began to dip as the Bulls shifted their identity to build around other players on the roster.
Today is your last chance to go check out the #NBAAllStar festivities downtown!
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— KSL Sports (@kslsports) February 19, 2023
The forward was then traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2021 before being rerouted to the Jazz last offseason.
Despite a tumultuous past three years, Markkanen said he never questioned his ability to lead a team.
“I never stopped believing,” Markkanen said. “I’ve just been putting the work in, and you have to have that high belief in yourself that anything can happen, and hopefully it’s just the beginning.”
Reworked All-Star Format
Sunday’s All-Star game will feature a new format with captains LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo drafting their rosters shortly before tip-off.
In recent years the draft was held on TNT, but the idea was reworked ahead of All-Star weekend in Salt Lake City.
While Markkanen is among the pool of starters that will open the game on the floor, he won’t be one of the first players drafted.
The updated #NBAAllStar player pool 👀
For up-to-date news, info, highlights and MORE head to the 2023 NBA All-Star Hub on the NBA App!
— NBA (@NBA) February 10, 2023
Instead, James and Antetokounmpo will select from the pool of reserves first, before drafting from the designated starters.
In addition to Markkanen, the All-Star starters include former Jazzman Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie Irving, Luka Doncic, Nikola Jokic, Ja Morant, Joel Embiid, and Jayson Tatum.
The game tips off at 5:30 p.m. MST at Vivint Arena on TNT.
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Ben Anderson is the Utah Jazz insider for KSL Sports and the co-host of Jake and Ben from 10-12p with Jake Scott on 97.5 The KSL Sports Zone. Find Ben on Twitter at @BensHoops or on Instagram @BensHoops.
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